3 Days in Barcelona - What to See and Do in the Capital of Catalonia

3 Days in Barcelona - What to See and Do in the Capital of Catalonia
Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos / Unsplash

Planning 3 days in Barcelona? Great. There’s no other city across Europe like the capital of Catalonia.

A compelling mixture of imposing Gothic and Art Nouveau-style architecture, cool museums, Spanish cuisine, sangria, sunshine, beaches, and a chilled vibe make Barcelona one of the greatest getaway cities at any time of year.

The thing with Barcelona is that it’s hard to tire of this cosmopolitan city. It will draw you back again and again. And there’s always something new to see and do, no matter how many times you’ve been here before. So take it easy and enjoy the below sites.

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3 Days in Barcelona - What to See and Do

This is a quick Barcelona itinerary that you can mix and match in any way you like. For each day in the city, we bunched up the main sights so that they are relatively close to each other.

And since it’s your first time here, you don’t want to get overwhelmed. There are many things to do, see, smell, and taste in Barcelona.

If you are planning to do a lot of sightseeing then you could get your Barcelona Pass. It includes free entry to top attractions such as FC Barcelona Museum, La Pedrera and many other Gaudi landmarks plus access to Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour.

Day 1 - Unearth Eclectic Barcelona

3 Days in Barcelona - Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo in Barcelona

Admire Sagrada Familia

Head to Sagrada Familia first thing in the morning and have your skip-the-line tickets pre-booked in advance. This way you’ll beat the crowds and have a whole day ahead of you to do more fun sightseeing.

Designed by Antoni Gaudi, who devoted a big chunk of his life to his extravagant project, Sagrada Familia started gaining its shape in 1882. But the project was so ambitious that only a quarter of the church was built before he died in 1926.

A soon-to-be-finished sandstone-like castle that we see today is a result of private donations and funds collected from entrance fees. It’s impossible to imagine Barcelona without this intricately decorated Gothic basilica.

Today, the symbol of Barcelona and the UNESCO World Heritage Site has finally received planning permission from the city council. Even though A. Gaudi did ask for it before starting his masterpiece, but he never received an answer making Sagrada Familia an illegal construction until 2019.

It’s worth booking a guided tour if you are keen to learn more about this masterpiece.

Not interested in guided tours or seeing the inside of this monumental piece of architecture? Fair enough. Then do this: Come here later in the day when the crowds die down. Also, if you time your visit with the golden or blue hour, you’ll have the perfect light for your cathedral shots.

Sneak Peek into the Extraordinary Casas

3 Days in Barcelona - Casa Mila
Casa Mila, Barcelona

From our own experience, Casa Batllo always has the longest queues. At the same time, the House of Bones is an extraordinary building inside and out, showcasing Gaudi’s creative mind at its best.

The masterpiece is a joy to look at from the outside so if you are short on cash, you can always appreciate the exterior from the street level for free. Otherwise, skip the line by purchasing your tickets in advance to save time on the day.

Casa Mila (La Pedrera) is an excellent choice for discovering the life and work of one of the greatest Catalan architects, Antoni Gaudi.

Here you get a sneak peek into the amazing courtyard, the apartments, the attic and the fascinating rooftop maze. Plus, the funky rooftop offers fabulous panoramic views across the city. From up here you also get a good view (and photo opportunity) of the towering Sagrada Familia.

Or, you could treat yourself and witness a spectacular night show after dark. Again, booking your tickets in advance and skipping the queue is one way to beat the crowds and enjoy the experience.

Both the Gaudi apartments, Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Casa Batllo are expensive to visit. But you should try and explore at least one of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain.

Lunch at Cerveseria Catalana

After all the explorations, you will, no doubt, find yourself hungry. There is a good food spot in between La Pedrera and Casa Batllo called Cerveseria Catalana.

It's a walk-in restaurant, but don't be put off by the lengthy queues. It will be worth it. The food here is fabulous.

Cerveseria Catalana address: Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008 Barcelona.

Have Fun at Park Guell

3 Days in Barcelona - Gaudi Park
Gaudi Park in Barcelona

Now, this Barcelona attraction needs pre-booking well in advance. That’s because admissions to this enchanted garden are limited to 400 tickets every half hour.

If you don’t pre-book your tickets, you might need to come the next day. We learned it the hard way, be smarter than us. Time is precious here just as much as your hard-earned pennies. Less queuing means more time for tapas and sangria, right?

Once you have your tickets, enjoy this fairy-tale-like playground to the fullest. The park is overflowing with colourful details put together from broken tile shards and gingerbread-like houses.

This delightful, slightly elevated zone will also lend you a good glimpse into the azure Mediterranean sea glimmering in the distance. The view is dreamy.

Day 2 - Parks, Pintxos and Wine

La Boqueria

For an indulgent breakfast, start your day early, with a visit to La Boqueria. Hiding across the road from Las Ramblas, it’s a melting pot of wonderful smells and tastes. Spare your morning to wander through one of the best food markets in Europe.

Stop for food and coffee and then shop till you drop. There are more than 200 traders ready to blow your socks off with their fresh produce. Great photo opportunities too if you are into food photography.

Explore the Gothic Quarter

Gothic Quarter in Barcelona
Gothic Quarter in Barcelona

Next up on your Barcelona itinerary is the gorgeous Gothic Quarter. Relax and walk its narrow charming streets, look up to admire the beautiful balconies and windows with colourful shutters.

For extra ambience come here early in the morning at sunrise to see the city waking up. Or, for a softer light in that picture-perfect snap, come here at dusk, just before sunset.

The quarter is especially atmospheric in the darkness and wandering through the winding streets is magical. But, while the place is buzzing with visitors, make sure you stay alert in the later hours. While we never had any issues, pickpockets are reported to hang around here.

Pop into Barcelona Cathedral

As you wander through the Old Quarter, visit Barcelona Cathedral, a wonderful Gothic style monument open for everyone.

The dimmed interior complete with shimmering gold chandeliers and a faded light coming through stained glass windows creates an eerie, but rather enchanted atmosphere.

Wander Parc de la Ciutadella

To escape the city centre, head to the green space of Parc de la Ciutadella on the northeastern edge of the Ciutat Vella area. It's a tranquil oasis from the hustle and bustle of the historic centre and has a lot to offer.

Enjoy the walk along flower beds and palm-fringed promenades or hire a rowing boat if you have a few pennies to spare.

Check out The Cascada on the northern side of the park, sculptures and museums such as the Natural History Museum of Barcelona.

Top Tip: Download this article as a self-guided walking tour on your smartphone. Check out our Barcelona City walk on gpsmycity.com

Find The Arc de Triomf

Investigate the intricate details of The Arc de Triomf located in Passeig de Lluís Companys in the Ciutat Vella area. It's a 30-meter-tall structure adorned with stone carvings, statues and beautiful ceramic tiles.

Enjoy Pintxos and Wine

Pintxos in Barcelona
Eating pintxos at Euskal Etxea in Barcelona

Enjoy your Barcelona adventure with delicious food and a local guide who can take you away from the crowded touristy spots and show you the real face of the city.

No matter how much research you’ve done before coming here, the best way to ease yourself into a new destination is to book a tour with a local.

If you are here for 3 days, you want to get the best out of your stay and sample some of the best pintxos in the local neighbourhood.

Day 3 - Have a Chilled Day in Barcelona

Barcelona Port
Port de Barcelona

Discover Port de Barcelona

For a chilled walk, head to Port de Barcelona and have a refreshing stroll along the waterfront.

Walk across the stylish wave-like Rambla de Mar wooden bridge that offers lovely views of the port. You could pop into one of the cafes at Maremagnum for quick refreshments by the water or do some quick shopping if you love Spanish brands like Havaianas.

Moll de la Fusta is another great spot to rest your tired feet and inspect beautiful boats in the Royal Marina bobbing in the blue water.

Unwind at Barceloneta Beach

It's not very often you get everything in one city, the culture, great food, and the beach! Barcelona really has it all. Pack your swimwear, a little picnic and you have your afternoon sorted.

Conveniently located 10 minutes away from the city centre, Barceloneta Beach is great for a fun day out or a chilled sunset walk. A little further away from the centre, towards the Olympic Village, you will find the Icària and Marbella (nudist) Beaches.

Sitges Beach is located approximately 30 minutes outside Barcelona so you will need to either rent a car or catch a train.

More Pintxos at Euskal Etxea

A great place to snack on pintxos is Euskal Etxea located in the heart of El Born. Great atmosphere, friendly staff and reasonably priced food.

Euskal Etxea address: Placeta de Montcada 1, 08003 Barcelona.

Extra Things to See and Do in Barcelona

3 Days in Barcelona - Panoramic Views
Plaza Espana in Barcelona

Ride Barcelona’s Montjuïc Cable Car

Barcelona isn't short of great viewpoints but all of them require a little bit of effort and sweating if you are visiting in the summer months.

Except for one - the cable car! We never miss a chance to ride a cable car. It’s easy, affordable, effortless and fun. And most of the time includes fantastic panoramic views.

In Barcelona, the view includes the Mediterranean sea too. So, to save yourself some legwork, take the cable car from Parc de Montjuïc to arrive at Castell de Montjuïc.

Enjoy Parc de Montjuïc

Take your time to explore the Parc de Montjuïc and hold your breath while looking down at the magnificent Plaza Espana framed by the Torres Venecianas. A spectacular view that will not cost you a penny!

Tour the Olympic Park

The Olympic Park is such a fun place to visit and relive those emotions of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Hear the powerful 'Barcelona' by Freddie Mercury as you watch the Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo lighting the Olympic flame cauldron with a flaming arrow.

Watch the Magic Fountains

3 Days in Magic Fountains
Magic Fountains

Located in the Montjuïc neighbourhood, the Magic Fountains is a must-see show. It’s probably the best one we’ve seen so far. Plus, it's free for you to enjoy.

A wonderful setting with fantastic panoramic views makes this place a highly visited spot in Barcelona. But fear not, there's plenty of space for everyone to watch the spectacular display of light, music and colour.

Explore Poble Espanyol

You could combine your visit to Montjuïc with a look around Poble Espanyol, a unique site in Barcelona. Here, thanks to many immersive audiovisual shows and displays, you can learn more about Spanish culture.

This open-air museum, with 117 real-life scale buildings from different Spanis regions, also houses the Museu Fran Daurel, displaying the work of contemporary artists like Miro, Picasso, and Dali.

There’s shopping too if you are into crafts, cafes and restaurants. But the best thing about this site is the viewing platform overlooking Barcelona in the sculpture garden.

Sip Cocktails on the Rooftop

Finish your perfect 3 days in Barcelona in style and head to H10 Montcada Boutique Hotel.

Take the elevator to the rooftop and enjoy lovely panoramic views and a refreshing cocktail from their Sunset Lounge Bar. The bar is open from 12 p.m. until midnight (April - October).

H10 Montcada Boutique Hotel address: Via Laietana, 24, 08003 Barcelona.

Day 4 - Day Trip from Barcelona

Montserrat from Barcelona
Cable car in Montserrat

Take a Day Trip to Montserrat

In case you decide to prolong your 3 days in Barcelona, which is very likely, take a day or a half-day trip to Montserrat. It’s a monastery perched atop stunning rock formations overlooking the capital of Catalonia.

Montserrat in Spain: How to Have the Best Day Trip From Barcelona
If you are thinking of the best day trips from Barcelona, Montserrat in Spain is your answer. The multi-peaked mountain with the famous monastery perched at the top is one of the places you’ll regret missing on your visit to glorious Catalonia. From the Abbey of Montserrat to museums

Start early and have a day of hiking or take a half-day trip from Barcelona and have a laid-back sightseeing afternoon. Either way, you’ll have a day filled with breathtaking views and fun experiences.

Is it Safe to Visit Barcelona?

In short, yes. Pickpocketing is a thing in the city so don’t leave your bag unattended, especially on the tube.

During our multiple visits to Barcelona, we never experienced any trouble. Unfortunate things can happen anywhere and the best you can do is be cautious and sensible.

For your second time in Barcelona, explore the city even further with this fun and quirky Barcelona neighbourhood guide.

Already been to Barcelona and thinking of visiting exciting sights other than the ones listed above? Then check out this fun and quirky Barcelona neighbourhoods guide.